Dr. RB McFee Email: email@example.com
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you.” 20 And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands, and His side. Then were the Disciples glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, “Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them “Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”
John 20: 19 - 22
Now you might think Part 4 of the Easter series is a bit late. After all, Easter was over 50 days ago, Pentecost was observed, and yet we’re still talking about it. Of course we are. We are Easter people!
As special, and fun, and instructive in the wisdom and love of God that Christmas is, Jesus came as God into our world for far more than celebrating a birthday or even feeling what life in human form was like. He came for Easter.
And with the exception of the Cross, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Tomb, the place where some of Jesus’ most instructive lessons to us occurs from Passover – the Last Supper, to the Resurrection, to Pentecost, is in the Upper Room. And He intended us to be Upper Room people, too.
What do you think of when hearing the words “the upper room?”
Many of us think about the devotional guide found in the narthex of many houses of worship titled The Upper Room. And for those who haven’t read it, take a copy. The daily stories and scriptures are inspiring. No surprise it is based on the Upper Room where Jesus did some of His best teaching. And make no mistake about it – we are called to teach each other about how Jesus has informed our lives and the frequent links between events we experience and scriptures that relate to them. In essence what the Disciples did for each other after the Crucifixion, the Ascension, and Pentecost.
Some scholars debate how many “upper rooms” there have been in the teaching of Christ from Passover to Pentecost, but for our purposes it matters less the number and more about the intimacy and purpose of the upper room.
From the onset – whether Old Testament or New, the upper room is a place of praise, transformation, and promise.
Consider John 20: 19 – 22, all the layers of Power and Promise Jesus introduces, and the beginning of inner change among the Disciples.
Consider the transformations that occurred for Jesus’ Disciples and us in the Upper Room on Passover, as Jesus transformed simple items – bread and wine – into sacraments that connect us to Him, and have done so for 2000 years. We as Christians will never look at bread or wine without thinking of communion, our Savior, His sacrifice, the New Covenant between God and His creation that Jesus made happen with His Body and Blood, at least on some level, even if fleeting. And by partaking of this sacrament, we say “enter Lord Jesus” and invite him to transform us into His likeness, service and relationship.
Jesus also used the upper room as the launching pad for the ministry in His Name that the Disciples would begin. Easter, Christian Pentecost cannot happen without the events foretold and begun in this place on Maundy Thursday.
Now imagine what transpired among the Disciples, Chosen, and beloved followers after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Many congregated, perhaps a better description would be to suggest they took refuge in the Upper Room; it became their hiding place, and I would argue their classroom, their recovery room, their confessional, and their place of transformation.
It was a place where they had to face themselves, encountering the events that transpired and their role in it, by Jesus’ side or not. And each would have to decide was this the end of their journey, or would they become what Christ was training them for.
What about us? Do we have regular upper room experiences – times when we face ourselves alone, or in the company of other Christians – experiencing the crucified and resurrected Christ, and our role in His ministry – when we have failed, and where we can succeed? Is it our place of prayer where we confront ourselves and open up to our Lord, our Holy Spirit, in adoration, confession, gratitude and supplication?
The scriptures tell us the room was locked. No doubt. They were likely hunted by the same folks who brought Jesus to trial, and led Him to execution. So we know fear was in that place. And shame – Peter remembering denying Jesus. And resolution, too! Notice it wasn’t just Peter who ventured forth to the tomb. Somewhere in the Upper Room they started to find their voice in Christ. A flicker of a flame perhaps, but a start. The end was not the Cross after all.
Speaking of which, when hidden in the upper room, did the Disciples pray? Ponder Jesus’ last words and sermons with greater clarity and sense of purpose? And who emerged among them to direct and comfort? The most broken and aggrieved among them – Peter, proving no one is too far gone for Christ to fix.
And that was proven on Easter when Jesus appeared to them through the locked door. He once again proved His promises and prophecy, His very Presence was authority, and truth.
In the Upper Room Jesus met His beloved chosen – the ones who emerged first with courage and purpose, likely Peter and John, and He met the ones who doubted and remained afraid. Think Thomas. But none remained unchanged, unloved, unsupported, or uncomforted. God had never left them, and they would use the time to grow in faith. They became upper room people.
And we can, too. Recall Jesus’ promise
“I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.”
The Holy Spirit meets us – you and me - in the Upper Room, as Jesus talked about the blessings on those who haven’t seen Him (and wouldn’t until the Second Coming) , which means you and me.
Jesus’ lessons – from His first sermons to His last words, from Galilee to Gethsemane to the Upper Room – are for us, and not just His contemporaries.
The Upper Room is symbolic as a place of transformation in the Power of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. But for that to happen, we must be present to Their Presence. And to do that, we need our Upper Room time and sacred space where we are dedicated to waiting for, and encountering, in essence experiencing the Holy Spirit.
Call it a prayer room, or Upper Room, call it the Prayer Trail at CCUMC, or a place by the water – whatever and wherever you choose, to grow in relationship with our God requires us to find a place and dedicate protected time to await the coming of our Lord.
What is your Upper Room, and do you visit it often?
Better said, do you make it a priority, a necessity to await the Lord every day – whether you are in the dark times and shadow of doubt as the Disciples were after the Crucifixion, or a time where you are taking a chance on God, on hope, in anticipation of Jesus’ promise to be filled with the Breath of God, Ruach, the Holy Spirit?
The upper room is a place where so many important events have taken place in the story of Jesus, His Chosen. And it can be a place of spiritual significance and transformation for us, too.